Larksong Grotto nagrulik-atuun
All Welcome  January 03, 2021, 04:33 PM
When Kigipigak deigned to return home to the Watch he found himself moving slowly over the snow, hesitant to cross the fields and climb the mountain. He was not sure who would be there; without Stjornuati to lead those that gathered Kigipigak worried they would disperse—and he could not blame them for that. Winter was a harsh time for any wolf without a well defended and properly stocked village. Many lived short lives in the far-flung northlands, taken by the sheer cold or the slow ache of starvation. Kigipigak had been arrogant enough to believe himself immune to all of that because of the Stormskyli brothers—and they were gone, now. Following the wind as it called to them.

Kigipigak crossed a frozen river as the flurries became thick and then sought shelter in the maze-like tangle; there he was lost for a solid four or five hours. Each time he thought he'd found his entry path to double back on it would lead him somewhere new—the snow having piled so quickly that the chasm his body left behind quickly filled, leaving him in a white expanse.

By the evening he had crossed an icy meadow and sought out the shelter of a grotto. The mouth of the cave looked bleak and smelled worse; some other creature having used the same logic to hide out while the winds shrieked outside, except whatever-it-was had died and begun to stagnate along a far wall. The putrid smell was pervasive; Kigipigak did not think he could linger there for longer than a night because of it.

He took to pacing within the grotto.
January 04, 2021, 07:47 PM
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this cave was the worst idea ever. somewhere off in the back, thinking he was still alone, he found he couldn't withold the gag that had been a hard lump impossible to swallow.
he retched—once, then twice, all dry.
in spite of this, he still felt hunger gnawing with either roll of his empty stomach. lakhos didn't care for winter at all; the novelty had worn off real quick and far from painless. a bullet to the brain would have been more forgiving than the grotto's rotten respite.
he spun as though to leave, but the footfalls left him frozen. or maybe it was the frostbite he thought was setting in—did that matter? how high was that one the priority list? probably not high enough.
hackles raised, his ears slid back as he sought immediate cover where he thought he could. this was probably a damn bear's leftover den.
January 05, 2021, 03:02 PM
With the chilled air outside of the grotto pitching howling fits and the air within smelling strongly of rot, Kigipigak was ignorant to his present company. The darkness at the back of the cave as well as the spoils did well to hide the coywolf, leaving Kigipigak to pace for some time. He stopped when the slightest shift occurred in the wind; the howling ebbed to a less pronounced whistling and he paused, pivoting to look upon the cavern's mouth.

As he approached it to peer outside there came a creaking sound, then a snap, and he withdrew in time to avoid a falling branch laden heavily with snow. Kigipigak recoiled. He sank to his haunches and shook his head, bits of snow falling from his snout and shoulders, some pine needles having billowed in along the floor from the collision. The branch was propped across the grotto mouth. 

He grabbed at one of the smaller prongs of wood jutting off of it and tugged experimentally, and while it shuddered to the effort it was snug where it had been wedged by gravity. Kigipigak huffed and moved away from the entryway, choosing to retreat deeper in to the grotto to wait — and at the last moment caught the warm, spicy scent of something alive in his nose, but could not see anything.

Perhaps he was imagining things.
January 05, 2021, 03:10 PM
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his breathing stilled, and he tried to keep the awful smell out of his nose. but mouth breathing only let him almost taste it and that was bad enough. maybe not quite as bad as being quartered off to with no discernable exit; lakhos knew he had to pick and choose his battles.
he didn't have a clear line of sight to the approaching wolf.
slinking along with an outcropping to cover him, he peered experimentally to see if he could find the other, but again, there was nothing. figures. his peering ended as he dropped back down, satellite dish ears turning this way and that way to listen.
god it smelled so bad.
his stomach rolled again, his body betraying stealth as he fought not to retch again with a choking sound.
January 05, 2021, 03:26 PM
Kigipigak could have been imagining things. He had heard stories of the snow bringing on hysteria in some, but did not himself feel hysteric in his shelter. The white-blinding that could occur if one was not careful—but that did not occur on storming days. That was a problem when it was clear and bright and all the glare of the sun hit the snow, then the eyes. Kigipigak was trying to make sense of that smell and the sense that something was there with him.

Perhaps it was one of those totem things that @Kukutux had spoken of. Kigipigak reasoned that any such visitor would come when he was asleep. He shook his mantled shoulders and felt the heft of his coat shrug back in to place, and knew he was still awake. He could hear the blunt ends of his claws touching the stonework beneath, further confirming to him that he was not asleep.

He drew close enough to the rear of the cave to loom over the slick puddle of rot. The smell was beyond ripe. He felt a bolus of something rise in his throat and swallowed repeatedly to keep it down. It was too dark to discern what the death thing had been but there were some bones to nose at — curving ribs, sprawling femurs and tibias, and a clearly mummified midsection that had, at some point, burst.

The coywolf was not far from where Kigipigak stood examining the remains. The smell was overpowering though. The sight of the twisted, somehow too-flat body with its nested innards taking his entire focus for the time being.
January 05, 2021, 04:22 PM
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footfalls drew closer yet; he heard the scraping of them across the stonework as he struggled to keep his own maw tightly shut. the lump had returned to his throat with a ferocity unmatched and it was there that a real battle began.
he was certain he would be found now, regardless of whether or not he was able to contain his heaving in private. but that survival instinct was strong and it alone was the only driving force behind him withholding spewing absolutely nothing but sound into the cavern.
slowly, the feeling passed. thank god.
he dared another peek over the stone as the footfalls passed him by and found the source. it wasn't a bear, not even a polar bear that he thought he might find living in such a damned place. but the wolf may as well have been one—like all wolves, they were taller and built stronger than he, and this one was no different. by comparison, he was monstrous in the eyes of the coywolf.
but he was distracted by the putrid and mangled whatever-it-was that lakhos had been investigating prior, and the coywolf though he saw his opportunity... if he could slip by. he held go of the breath he hadn't be aware he was holding in a slow, near silent puff.
and he skittered away towards the cavern's mouth.
adios, mister lobo.
January 05, 2021, 04:29 PM
The sound of those claws scrambling against the grotto's floor could have been water dripping, and at first that was what Kigipigak connected the sound to. There was something moving near his flank and as he turned to witness it he saw a shock of tawny fur and the deer-thin limbs reaching from the shadows. The movement ignited Kigipigak's desire to chase and he could not contain it. The sagging carcass was put out of his mind and he focused on that wiry thing, lunging after it.

The light that managed to enter the grotto scrawled incongruent shapes across the floor and when the creature neared the opening, those shapes twisted and morphed again. Kigipigak saw a halo-effect around the creature's face but otherwise they were a shadow to him. 

Tall ears, narrow body, long and lean—Kigipigak reached out and tried to grasp at them to pull them back from the light, aiming poorly for where he thought the tail would be.
January 05, 2021, 04:52 PM
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giganto the wolf heard him. giganto the wolf was turning after him and he didn't need to see the terrifyingly lightning speed that he was taking.
lakhos, you dumb bitch.
he felt hot breath tickle at the hairs on his hocks, heard the snap of teeth as they clicked behind him. that was close, too close. no sir, do not like it. getting purchase on the icy stones at the grotto's fanged mouth was another hazard, another obstacle between him and freedom and potentially his demise.
he scrambled with even more haste, breaking out into the deep snows of the taiga with a whoop of success that was short lived. the wolf would still be after him and things were probably going from bad to worse.
January 05, 2021, 05:06 PM
The creature was agile enough to avoid his teeth, even managed to scramble out from the grotto mouth under the fallen branch, to emerge triumphant on the other side. Kigipigak was not so lucky; he missed his attempt to grab them and his chest collided with the branch thereafter, briefly winding him. He sucked in a breath and got a mouthful of frigid air.

It was better to keep himself contained in the cavern at any rate. The weather wasn't the best; it was only going to get worse, and Kigipigak would rather put up with some claustrophobia than be caught there among the trees and the snow, given that they could topple at any time.

As he tried to catch his breath he watched the creature just outside of cover. It looked like a wolf but a thin one, smaller than himself by far. The urge to chase after them had ceased when he'd hit the tree branch. Coyotes were not rare in the north but Kigipigak did not have much experience with them, so he did not immediately identify the stranger as such. 

He called out to them while the snow whipped from all sides: You are not a fox! I did not mean to chase you. Come back in here, it is safer. The chase had warmed him up some, though. It got his blood pumping and revived some of his good mood.
January 05, 2021, 05:21 PM
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he struggled into a snow drift that was a lot deeper than he remembered it. it was over, he would be the side of sausage in this scrambled egg dish for sure. the womd boxed his ears, the cold stinging his nose as he dove deeper into the drift.
but the wolf had not come for him.
his voice reached lakhos instead, giving the scrawny coywolf pause. he had to stop to turn his head to hear him, to pull at least one ragged ear out of the wind to listen.
he made a face.
the fuck? he said to himself. he scoffed.
a fox?? a fox???
oh, no thanks, i know a trap when i see one, he went on, calling out. from there he could see the face of the wolf better, even through the tines of the branches. the wolf was snared for now, and he looked like scarred up goliath and lakhos wasn't a david. he wasn't even a grain of sand in the holy land.
have fun dying in your smelly shithole!  his tone turned mocking, a sneer fitting his features. he wanted to keep his tail thank you very much.
January 05, 2021, 05:38 PM
The stranger called back to him and Kigipigak snorted, but could not blame them for their skepticism given the circumstances. He did not want to be in the cavern any more than they did. If they could escape then maybe he should give it a shot?

When the canid called out a second time Kigipigak only heard part of it; something about the cave being a shithole. 

He was busy trying to push against the fallen branch or work himself low enough to duck under it as the stranger had — but when that failed he tried to climb over, and managed to get at least one of his front limbs over, then struggled with the next.

Better to be dry and warm, even if it smells like death! Kigipigak bellowed. You southerners have no concept of real snow. You will freeze and die out there! As if Kigipigak were the expert on the subject; he had never seen winter in these southlands and had no idea how harshly the weather could affect these Wilds.

He kicked at the ground and then scrambled at the branch's barked side, the weight of his body pressing the thinnest section down to the grotto floor and causing something to splinter. A few more minutes would see the branch split enough to let Kigipigak pass.
January 05, 2021, 05:52 PM
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oh, get fucked! he shouted back.
he didn't freeze the winter before and a blizzard wasn't going to stop him now. he turned away all self-righteous, stomping off into the wintry haze assured that now he could make a get away. the fact that the wolf was busying himself with escaping meant that he only had a few fractions of time for himself, and lakhos intended to make good on getting the hell out of dodge.
he didn't want to be heckled any more, nor did he particularly care to heckle someone who could fling him around like a ragdoll in a washing machine.
finding his footing in the deep snow was another story of course.
but he made some headway, putting the grotto's ugly maw behind him and the uglier wrath of a snowman's scorn even further back. if he was lucky, he'd find somewhere else to duck into that maybe didn't smell like a balrog's asshole and wasn't home to some battle-tested junkyard dog.
January 05, 2021, 06:00 PM
The stranger's voice rang oddly clear: Oh, get fucked!

Why couldn't this creature realize how foolish it was being? It was an easy decision to Kigipigak. They were choosing to brave the endlessly falling snow, deeper in places than they were tall, rather than escaping the worst of it in the cavern. At any point more branches could come down — or entire trees! As nimble as they were, Kigipigak doubted they could survive for long in such conditions.

He scrambled, kicked, and finally the branch beneath him gave way to a cloud of snow. Pine needles scattered in the wind. As the chaos of that moment settled Kigipigak looked around for signs of the stranger who, alas, he could not see. Any path they had left behind was a vague silver shadow against the white of the ground—and the snow fell rapidly to cover their escape route.

Kigipigak was left with a decision of his own: return to the noxious cavern or take his chances in the snow. The effort of breaking apart the branch and escaping those confines had warmed him; adding to that an astounding arrogance about winter, and Kigipigak made up his mind.

He turned opposite to the stranger's path (unknowingly) and began to hike across a burm of snow.
January 05, 2021, 06:13 PM
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silence pursued him now.
well, okay, it wasn't true silence because the wind was still howling away in his ears. the moments drew out and he started to feel a sense of safety return to him, though he kept checking over his shoulder to make sure that the snowy dunes weren't charging after him bearing scars and sores and a thunderous snarl.
but that moment never seemed to come.
apparently he was the victor of whatever imaginary battle he had started and that put a little pep in his step as he trudged along, figuring it best to try and cross the whiteout expanse of that wintry hellscape to find somewhere else to exist. he didn't know what was out there or what other horrors awaited him, but only time would tell.
he was still hungry, though.